Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Ashtasakhis: Lalita and Vishaka

Lalita Devi:

Lalita Devi is the prime ashtasakhi of the eight primary sakhis. The most exalted, she is 27 days older than Srimati Radharani. Inevitably the leader, she is the eldest of Krishna’s gopis. Though a close confidante of the divine couple, she is more inclined to Sri Radhika.


An intimate companion of Radharani, Lalitaji is the khandita with a contradictory and hot-tempered nature. Her complexion is bright yellow and garments the color of peacock feathers. Sri Lalita has adept expertise in arranging the rendezvous of Radha and Krishna and their conjugal fights.


Her mother is Saradi Devi and her father is Vishoka. Her husband is Bhairava, who is a close friend of Govardhana Malla, the husband of Candravali.


There are four types of sakhis: svapaksa, vipaksa, tatastha and suhrt. Lalita Devi and Visakha Devi are examples of gopis who are svapaksa to Srimati Radhika, their love for Radha stands supreme with their prime concern being Radhika’s pleasure


The longing of the gopikas and the calming of their desires by Lord Krishna is centred within Braj.


Sites of Braj Bhoomi closely related to Sri Lalita


Karhala:

Shri Lalitaji was born in the village of Karhala. This is the site of Dadhi Daan (a ritual celebration of Krishna’s birthday involving the throwing of dahi mixed with turmeric). It is said that the Raas Leela was inaugarated here by Shri Ghamand Devji. Karhala is considered the navel of Braj.


Ooncha Gram:
Her father later on brought her to Oonchagaon. Shri Lalitaji is the predominant of Shri Krishna’s chief sakhis. Her devotion to Shri Radha-Krishna makes her the most fortunate of all gopis when she serves the needs of the divine couple in their private moments. Her only concern is to see Shri Radha and Shri Krishna united and joyous in love. Overcome by her dedicated devotion, Lord Krishna always has her by his side. Lalitaji is very sharp-witted and also well-versed in illusion. Shri Baldev temple lies to its east and the Samadhi of Narayan Bhattji is closeby.


Chitra Vichitra Shila:

This shila is planted next to the phislani shila. An excellent example of painting done by sakhis, it is worth a visit. The workmanship colored in various hues has a distinctive pattern. Rain, sunshine and cold waves have not impacted the pieces of art, appearing the same since ages. When the sakhis did shringara of the lover and his beloved, organizing Shri Lalitaji’s wedding with Shyam Sunder; her palms adorned with mehndi rested on this shila or boulder. In anticipation of witnessing this miracle once again, the shila imprinted the love-soaked coloured palmprints of Shri Lalitaji on its heart and is very proud of the fact.


Shri Lalitaji’s Wedding Site:

At the age of seven Shri Krishna fulfilled Lalitaji’s heart’s desire and married her. Till date the site resounds with the celebrations of their marriage on Bhadra’s Shukla Dwadashi which falls after Shri Radha Ashtami. An enchanting and isolated site it captivates us.


Shri Lalita Kund:

Establised by Shri Lalita this great teerth is tough to attain even by deities. Shri Lalita, an intimate close sakhi of the Lord is the prime ashtasakhi .Though all sakhis strive for the Lord’s joy, she is very tender and sharp-witted, having an entry to every romantic dalliance of Shri Radha-Krishna. Adept at interpreting each gesture of the Lord, she takes action accordingly.


Figuring out the Lord’s mindset she got Shri Radha to him in this lovely foliage. The two were soon engrossed in their amorous frolics with Lalitaji captivated by their madhurya or sweet love. A group of sakhis gathered here, enchanted by the scenario. Situated to the east of Nandgram it has the Surya Kund nearby where the Sun God was ecstatic on sighting Lord Krishna.


Larhli Kund:

Shri Lalitaji arranges for the union of Shri Radha-Krishna here to see them ecstatic in love. It is on the western side of the Pawan Kund.

Srila Rupa Gosvami prays, "I offer pranama again and again unto Srimati Lalita-devi."


Gahar Van:

Shri Lalita on hearing even the slightest crafty word from Krisna to Radhika is immediately angry, cutting Him off with sarcastic words that make even Krishna lose face. Gahar Van as the name indicates is a dense forest. It is the idyllic landscape for the romantic escapades of Shri Radha-Krishna, the longing of the gopikas, and the unfolding of their madhurya or sweet love. Dearly loved by Shri Radha, a site where gopikas giggle and the place resounds with their tinkling anklets as they wander around the trees.


Highly revered Ushaji Bahinji visited the place, expressing the ambience beautifully. Shri Hit Harivanshji Maharaj said that if Shri Radha is graceful in love’s fulfillment and dignified in love’s separation, Shri Lalita Sakhi is the love messenger. Till date these divine dalliances are prevalent in Gahar Van. Only the very fortunate of devotees are able to sight them.


Anjnauk (Anjan Van):

Shri Lalita has acquired the rare distinction of being an expert in adorning Radharani. While applying kajal, she reminds Radhika of the time she forgot to darken her eyes and Krishna applied it himself. One day sitting in her chamber, Shri Radha was doing shringara. A parrot named Vichshan narrated the scenario to Shri Krishna. Suddenly the Lord playing the flute which is the breath of their love; drew Shri Radha and her sakhis and they headed to this forest. Making Shri Radha sit on the front boulder, he absorbed her ravishing beauty. Seeing her eyes not darkened enough, he applied collyrium and purposely smeared it right upto the eyebrows.


Soon after with a mirror he went to her and holding her hand, wiped it neatly to make up for his error. He repeated this incidence several times which led to an unprecedented dalliance. The sakhis planned to shower them with flowers and after plucking them savoured their romantic escapade which gave them divine joy. Renowned as Anjnauk (Anjan Van) it recounts those pleasurable efforts.


Gulal Kund:

When Shri Lalita approaches a young maiden in Vrindavan, and finds out after clever interrogation that she is inclined toward her mistress Radhika, she immediately fulfills her desires. The festival of Holi leads to Shri Radha-Krishna along with their sakhis being enthralled by a riot of colours. Red and other hues of gulal gather in the sky. Loaded with pichkaris, the Brajbalas invite Radha for the celebrations.


The sakhis are ecstatic on being captivated by the madhurya of Shri Krishna exuded by his gestures and loving tenderness. Shri Nanddasji reveals that now the whole lot drenched with colour entered the kund and splashed water to wash it off. During Phaag (celebration of Holi) the colorful passion awash here enchants all devotees.


Vihval Kund:

The flute in the hands of Krishna is more than a musical instrument; it is the breath of love. Its melody attracts the cows and draws the gopis out of their homes for a romantic dalliance with the Lord. Hearing its mellifluous sound the enraptured village girls yearn for a glimpse of him. Priyaji Shri Radha on hearing this call to eternity came to a nikunja.


Shri Lalita instructs Srimati Radhika by saying, ‘O unchaste Radha! Do not be so generous and soft with that cunning son of Nanda Maharaja.” The greed of sighting her beloved Lord unnerved Shri Radha every moment. Not able to bear her delicious anguish Lord Krishna soon came close to her. Vihval Kund narrates the ethereal intimacy of their union. The kunds or ponds of Shyam, Lalita, Vishakha, Maan, Mohini and Bhalbhadra are close by.

Kam Sarovar:

Shri Lalita is the preceptor for all the girlfriends or sakhis of Radharani, teaching them all about sisterly affection. The delights of Paradise are reflected as if by a cosmic mirror onto the Kam Sarovar, a site of the gopikas amorous dalliance with Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna is the focus of the ardour of the gopis, the object of their longing and love which is expressed in the cry of the enraptured gopikas for union with their paramour. Their passion is pious and love is pristine, with not a trace of self-gratification or sensual pleasure. Embodiments of love, their longing for him is in fact the cry of the enraptured soul for union with the Lord who acclaims their love as pure and greatly admires it. Kam Sarovar is famed as the site of celestial passion.


Shri Lalit Mohan Sthal:

Hey Shri Krishna immersed in love! Hey Lalita Mohan! I make obeisance to you, the bestower of love.


Raas Mandala:

Without the mercy of Shri Lalita, Giriraja or Yamuna, it is not possible to sight the Raas Lila. The first and greatest is Shri Lalita, the second is Giriraja Govardhana and the third is Yamuna or Visakha-Devi.
I salute you hey Raas Mandala made for the Raas or pleasure of the Lord! If there is one aspect to Shri Krishna’s enigmatic persona which distinguishes him from all other deities it is his leela.


This divine play which is both real and illusionary makes him both human and divine at the same time. Delighting in play, he endears himself and brings delight to all his devotees. Who can possibly describe the good fortune of Braj Bhoomi where every site has been touched by the feet of Shri Radha- Krishna and their group of sakhis, thereby making it even highly honored for saints.


Kadamba Khandi:

Shri Lalita is most expert in arranging secret trysts between Radha and Gopinatha. The ethereal kadamba trees on the banks of the Pavan Sarovarform form a sort of canopy beneath which Shri Radha-Krishna fix their rendezvous. The great merit of the kadamba flowers is unique. Their pride on becoming the shringara of the Lord’s mukut, beautifully adorning his ears, serene sensuality on being strung in his vanamala makes their joy know no bounds.


When they grace Shri Radha’s neck, the Lord is jealous of their closeness with his beloved. Caressing their bodies, these kadamba flowers make the sakhis experience the playful dalliances. At times when the Lord frolics on the Pawan Sarovar with his sakhis, the drenched flowers exude a fragrance making water play all the more charming. Kadamba khandi on the banks of Pawan Sarovar, the site of several rasiks’ experiences, is very dear to all Vaishnavas.


Haroyal Village:

Shri Radha-Krishna’s amorous escapade of today began with gambling and dice. Both were experts at the game but the Lord was not lucky as of now and soon lost his patka, vanshi and lakuti. Unnverved, he told Sri Lalitaji that he would now put himself at stake and certainly win. It seemed he wouldn’t even after employing unfair means. Lalitaji asserted that their innocent swamini Shri Radha would triumph and she did. Even on losing, the Lord accompanied Shri Radha and both were lost in their love play. The incidence of victory and defeat is woven around this site known as Haroyal.



Sri Vishaka Sakhi

Sri Vishaka is the second most important gopi of the ashtasakhis or eight primary gopis. Her father’s name is Pavana, mother is Sudaksina, and her husband is Vahika. She is said to be from the village of Kamai.


Kamai (Kamna Van):
This is the birthplace of Sri Vishakhaji who is held in great esteem. One of Shri Krishna’s eight primary sakhis, her seva is to smear fragrant camphor on the bodies of Shri Radha-Krishna as she decks them. She is an expert at embroidering creepers and shrubs on garments which adorn the Lord.


Complexioned like vidyut, or lightning, she is decked in taravali garments adorned with clusters of stars.


Her grove to the northeast of Sri Radha Kunda, appears like a megha or raincloud. Its environs are colored red, green, yellow and black and it is named Visakhananda.


Shri Vishakha Kund:

The kund is to the south-eat of Sri Lalita Kund. The most learned of Lord Krishna’s ashtasakhis, Vishakhaji is very intelligent in giving advice on various amorous frolics. Her judgement is inevitably correct because of which she is very dear to the Lord. Wise in getting Shri Radha from wherever she may be when Lord Krishna desires, she works towards their joyous union which is her reward.

Very much like Lalita Devi she is attributed with deftly carrying messages between Radha and Krishna with great expertise and is a close friend of the divine couple.


Vastralankara or arranging for the clothing and adornment of the Divine Couple is the service rendered by Vishaka Devi.


She is precisely the same age as Srimati Radharani. Her mood is svadhina bhartrika, or one who controls her lover with pleasant experiences. Temperamentally she is adhika-madhya or moderately exalted.


She loves playing the mridanga, her favorite tune being raga saranga. Sri Visakha’s sweet transcendental singing eclipses the sound of the cuckoos.


Kokila Van:

Kokila Van resounds with the music of the black cuckoo. A visit here during the Swati Nakshatra of Bhadra Shukla Rishi Panchami is of special significance. Today early in the morning Shri Shyam Sunder came to this forest and merging his voice with the song of the cuckoo made the environs echo with this sound. Shri Radha heard the call and knew it was her lover but how could she venture here alone. Sri Vishakhaji cleverly came up with a strategy and accompanied her to the place. The sakhis on the other hand longing for their Lord also arrived; treading on the path of love their feet never stray and inevitably lead to him. Kokila Van was blessed with this divine play.


Eight Maidservants:

Her maidservant is Vilasa-manjari. In Sri Vishaka’s yutha, the chief sakhis are Malati, Madhavi, Chandra-rekha, Subhanana, Kunjari, Harini, Surabhi and Capala. Visakha-devi's father is a scholar, thus she is very learned. A wise counselor she diplomatically handles the romantic dalliances. She has a great sense of humour and arranges for the Divine Couple to meet at different rendezvous for a myriad of romantic escapades. Skillfully painting flower and leaf patterns on Their bodies, Vishaka makes crowns for Them out of garlanded flower and embroiders Their clothes.


Visakha supervises the dasis who produce and care for clothing; plus she instructs the maidservants of Vrindadevi for nurturing the flowers, vines and trees of Vrindavana. Although she may appear second in importance to Lalita, Visakha is truly Srimati Radharani's close girlfriend. Alike each other, Radharani and she seem almost twins. The famed saying, ‘Sri radhike tava carita-gunanurupam’, means that her qualities and characteristics are very similar to Srimati Radharani's.


Visakha's other form is the Yamuna River. Whenever Lord Krishna sights Visakha He instantly thinks of Sri Radha; whenever Sri Radha sees the dark blue waters of the Yamuna River She remembers Krishna instantaneously.


Shri Yamunaji:

Endowed with infinite virtues, the sacred town of Mathura situated on its banks and inhabited by cowherds of Braj, is Shri Yamunaji. Dissolving people’s sins it offers the loving worship of Lord Krishna, leading to salvation. On one hand it is manifest as a river and on the other it resides as Kalindi, the beloved of Lord Krishna.


Though all religious sects have given Yamunaji due importance but for the Pushti Marg Shri Yamunaji is not just a holy river. Initially she was the one to impart divine knowledge of significant sites to Shriman Mahaprabhuji.


As a swamini or devotional ideal she is manifest as Lord Krishna’s fourth senior queen and in Her Pushti Shakti form she is revered and worshipped. The Lord frolics on its banks, merrily plunging into its waters. Once sulking, Lord Krishna hid in a thicket. Shri Radha, Lalita and Vishakha tried to placate him but failed. Yamunaji, his beloved, adopted the form of Syam Sunder and appearing before him managed to make him laugh. Embracing her, Lord Krishna gave the boon of her worship in this form. Consequently she shows the path of Krishna worship to Pushti Margi devotees.


I make obeisance to Vishaka Sakhi:


"Visakha-devi is the place where the youthful Divine Couple enjoy romantic and playful frolics. Her sweet transcendental singing eclipses the voices of the cuckoos. I say that Visakha-devi may become pleased with me and accept me as her student".


"O bestower of benediction" O causelessly merciful Visakha. Within the society of the beautiful damsels of Vraja, you are the closest replica of Sri Radha Herself (regarding feminine qualities, nature and age). Therefore, overlooking my hundred of offenses, please be kind upon me and accept me as your maidservant".


Sri Visakha-Sakhi appears as Sri Ramananda Raya in Gaura-lila.


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